02 October, 2006

Hating The Rich

The solidly respectable Roger Abramson had a post at the end of last week wherein he claims that most people don't hate the rich, but instead admire their accomplishments.

I cannot speak for most people. I can only truly speak for me. And while I am not hating the rich per se, I'm finding myself to have less and less use for their shenanigans. Like this for instance. Homes priced in excess of $100 million. Homes with 24 Karat gold-plated fixtures in the loo. Why is this necessary?

My relationship with The Rich has had its ups and downs. I started out like Roger, admiring their accomplishments and pondering what it would take for me to join their ranks. Then I went to work for a rich man. I found out that one of the ways some people get and stay rich is by not paying enough money to their employees. I also found out that another way some people get and stay rich is by lying and cheating and stealing. I'm sure there are many wealthy people who have risen from the dirt of poverty to the ranks of the monied without chiselling, bootlegging or throwing people out of their homes to build ridiculously expensive office high-rises. I was going to say "Steve Jobs and Bill Gates", but then I remembered the nice folks at PARC Xerox who saw their work on GUI spirited away by the two eager beavers. See? Stealing. That's another way to get rich.

I think there's a reason Jesus said it's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. It seems that Jesus--you know, Mr. if-you-have-two-coats-give-one-to-someone-in-need--realised that great wealth often comes from great misdeeds. Of course, my sins are just as numerous so admittedly I should quit worrying about their splinters and concentrate on my own huge and gaping flaws. And I will.

But I still find myself wondering why on earth a $100 million home is necessary. Yes, a man's reach should exceed his grasp. And that's part of what worries me. Because if someone's grasp includes such a house it would seem that his reach could be dangerously destructive.


At 9:20 AM, October 02, 2006, Blogger SistaSmiff said...

We were watching a show on TLC yesterday about people who had won the lottery and how it had changed their lives. Most of the people on the show remained very humble. They bought them nice homes and enjoy their financial independence, as I would. You could tell it had not changed them.

There was this one guy though....he got his degree in interior decorating from Graceland. This guy had more tacky, gaudy, expensive crap..."I paid 100,000 for these 200 year old elephant tusks" and crap like that. I told Mr. Smiff that that guy would end up broke before he died.

At 9:50 AM, October 02, 2006, Blogger Gunner said...

Homes priced in excess of $100 million. Homes with 24 Karat gold-plated fixtures in the loo. Why is this necessary?

Becuase they can. If you're poor you live in a poor house. You get a better job, so you get a better house, Each house a step up, and a sign of how much you earn. It simply keeps getting more and more goofy as they get rich.

At 9:59 AM, October 02, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

I understand what you mean. However, wealth is always relative. If I compare my own standards of living to someone in a third world country, or even some people here in America, they may wonder why I may live so extravagantly, with my wife and I going out to dinner more than once a week, with a house that in which our eventual kids can each have a room to themselves(and our parents don't even live with us), our two cars, and our cats who have it pretty good compared to some African kids.

Yes, at some point consumption does become a little ridiculous, but at the same time, there may be someone who looks at our lifestyle as extravagant, because so few of us really live to the very basest of our needs.

And yes, how someone does obtain their money does truly matter, even if they are within the law. As far as paying "enough" to their employees, I would argue that what is "enough" is a subjective opinion.

But I'm not disagreeing with you. We are a pretty prosperous nation, but there are those who lie far outside the standard deviation. I would fear winning the lottery because of the threat instant wealth could to me and my relationship with others, mostly Christ. At the same time, people can be extremely wealthy, but still be extremely generous. Does it really matter if someone lives in a $100 million dollar home if they donated $1 billion to charity?

At 10:09 AM, October 02, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I agree with myself and I disagree with myself at the same time. After I wrote this I went upstairs to do laundry and thought "why do I NEED a four-bedroom house for two people?" Granted, we expect there to be more than two people someday, etc. But still. I do not NEED three TVs. I don not NEED a microwave. (good thing, too, cause mine is broken right now.)

I think where the breakdown for me exists is in how the wealth was acquired. I completely agree with Gunner about some wealth being a consequence of hard work, education and innovation. I love that kind of wealth. Because, as Chance points out, that kind of wealth finds its way back into the community and is only beneficial.

But let's use the Kennedys as an example. They're an extremely wealthy family. And I'm sure they give a lot to charity. Bobby Kennedy was rumoured to be some type of a saint. However, they got that money and the subsequent power from bootlegging. Which, while I think alcohol should never have been illegal, was illegal. And bootlegging DID cause harm to the community. Ask Chicago.

I'm not saying anything new. Even some of the very rich have looked at their lives through the lenses of history and society only to realise that they've profitted off the misery of others. That's why we have the Nobel Prizes. Alfred Nobel was so sick about having invented dynamite that he decided to have his wealth do good in perpetuity.

So basically, I'm all for getting as much money as you can in this life and spending it how you see fit. As long as you acquire that money ethically and morally. There's the catch.

At 4:11 PM, October 02, 2006, Anonymous subk said...

But just think of how the local economy was affected as these ginormous buildings were being built! The plumbers, electricians, the guys laying hardwood...

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